Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day everyone! I hope it has been a fabulous weekend.
On Friday we went snowshoeing up Herman Gulch to do some winter ecology, learn snow science, dig snow pits, and experience the everyday battles between predator and prey. Please link your slices of life related to the fierld trip in the comments below. If you did not come on the trip, please write about being outside in the snow during another time in your life.
The first hug of the morning is often the best one of the day. Today my four-year-old daughter sleepily opened her door and saw me buttoning my shirt in the hallway. She blinked her eyes in the 'bright' dim light and sleepily wandered towards me. She stopped at my knees and looked up as I reached down.
"Want a hug kiddo?" Sometimes the answer is, "No," and the last thing I want is a grumpy interaction to start the day. Plus I want her to learn at an early age that she does not need to show affection just because someone else wants it. That's why we sometimes forgo a morning hug or allow her to leave her extended family members without giving them a hug and a kiss if she doesn't want to.
But this morning, she raises her arms and smiles a sleepy smile.
The hug is a perfect moment and I'm glad I did not leave early to workout at the gym. She is warm from sleep, radiating heat as she loops her arms around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder. I wish those seconds of oneness and love could last the entire day and I make a conscious effort to just be in that moment. As the hug ends, small part of me secrets the moment within myself, to be pulled out and wrapped around me, later in the day.
Join me and others as we write Slices of Life. On Tuesdays I'll be sharing my SOL at the Two Writing Teachers blog. This week, I'm posting early because my class is slicing and linking up as well at http://maxandkam.blogspot.com and the assignment is due Monday.
“Max Maclay!” The last vowel sound is drawn out with some extra emphasis and I knew I might be in trouble. Not because it was unfriendly sounding, just the opposite, but what if I didn't remember her name?
I have a problem with names. I’m great with faces but horrible at remembering names. If everyone in the world went around with name tags, I would be a happier and more confident person. Being part of a lot of large and disparate groups, I “know” a lot of faces but unless I write their name down for some reason or hand them homework back, names tend to escape me.
The fact that she knew my name and
said it like she hadn’t seen me in quite while was my first hint. But I had
just stepped into the Starbucks and was blinking into the relative dimness and
she was backlit by the window so making a positive ID was difficult. I actually
was pretty sure who it was even though I had not seen her for seven or eight
years but it always pays to be sure before blurting out the wrong name and
watching a friendly face fall.
Unexpectedly seeing someone I know
goes something like this in my head: "I know that person…what’s his name? Oh oh…they
see me. Think Think THINK!"
They remember my name. Why is Max so darned easy to remember?
How are you?'
Is he a disc
golfer? A former student? Parent of a student? Another teacher perhaps? Think Think THINK!
We should all just wear these 24/7!
And so it goes. I usually remember
enough to ask about family, things we’re connected to and the weather is always
a safer topic. I hate faking it though because I’m not fully part of the
interaction. Part of me is still running through names, or berating myself for
considering this person a friend and not knowing their name.
I have a lot of strategies for
surreptitiously finding out a name. Playing disc golf, I’ll hand the disc
(Frisbee to some) back after they putt out, taking a cheating glance to see if their name is on the back. The danger is that disc golfers do a
lot of trading and selling of discs so the name is not always associated with
the current owner. Sometimes I just ask someone else but I always have to
include some self-depreciating comment and I don’t like doing that too often. I
hate when I know it’s a former student, especially if I remember a lot about
them. I can sometimes pull the, “You should call me Max instead of Mr. Maclay,
and I should call you Mr…um(Please fill
in your last name),” trick. My best strategy is when I’m with my wife and
often savior. I can introduce her and that usually elicits the correct monkier
from my nameless friends. Susan of course just gives me that look that says, “I know what you’re doing but I’ll take pity
But today, I’m on my own. The voice
steps from in front of the window and I am relieved to be 100% sure of it’s
owner; a former student from Olathe, who graduated in 2007, my last year there.
Her senior picture is among the many that still grace the filing cabinet in my
classroom. I’m genuinely happy to see her and to have the chance to catch up, without worrying about her name.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jason_one/1394001582/">jason_one</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
Today I am submitting a couple of poems written last week. The first, Idle Autumn, I wrote drafts of with my class while we sat outside on a warm autumn afternoon writing about fall. It went through several revisions and was completed on a plane ride to a wedding in South Carolina. The second, Cirrus Mist, was inspired by watching the sun rise on that same plane flight. I think they could both use some work, but I like them well enough for now. Cheers!
all came back to too much water. As I lay in my sleeping bag, half-asleep and
cozy against the elements, I knew I would be getting up soon. I sneak a peak at
my watch, the Indiglo bright searing my squinting eyes just long enough to see
it was 2:58. I rolled over again and tried to will my bladder and my brain back
my I continued to awaken, despite my best attempts to the contrary, I thought
of all the reasons not to get up.
It’s cold out there.
The zippers of my tent might wake everyone up.
I will have to find my clothes in the dark or turn on my
There might be scorpions in my boots.
For as long as I could remember, I had heard about shaking out boots in
scorpion country so the little critters would not sting the five-headed monster
of a foot entering the new cave they had claimed. Well Goblin Valley State Park
in Utah is the desert and scorpions do live here. Had I even remembered to tell
my students about shaking their boots out? An old Far Side cartoon flashes into my brain.
don’t even know what my middle-of-the-night reaction would be to a scorpion in
my boot at 2:58 in the morning. Would I scream? Would I be a “good” enough
person not to smash it with the boot, honoring Nature’s creatures and all that?
Or are those sentiments only reserved for daylight hours?
Much Water! That was the problem. Not enough and then definitely too much. With
the business of managing twenty-two 10-13 year-olds during the day I had not
taken care of myself by drinking copious amounts of water. Then, to relieve the
“you’re getting dehydrated” headache after dinner, I had drunk two liters
during the last two hours I was awake. I even knew at the time I was going to
be getting up in the middle of the night. Heck, at this point in my life, I
usually get up at least once anyway, why even worry about how much water I
green flash from my watch. 3:04! Not even ten minutes have passed? I was secretly
hoped this inner monologue had happened around some dreams and it would be
closer to 6:00.
I’m getting up! Long-sleeve shirt and jacket first, followed by a blast of cold
air as I unzip my bag and hurry into pants and synthetic wool socks. I try to
quietly unzip my tent, slowly and quietly but my body is telling me now is the
time to move a little quicker.
moment of truth is upon me. I fumble for my headlamp, place it on my head, and
squint while my eyes try to mange the bazillion-watt halogen brightness filling
my vision. Once I no longer see pure white, I grasp each hiking boot by the toe
and vigorously tap the heels against the ground. Carefully I hold them
upside down expecting nothing to fall out in reality, but ready just in case
because reality doesn’t always matter when it’s dark.
I slip into my boots and loosely tie up the laces. As I trudge towards the
bathroom in the campground, my headlamp lights up the inches of drying mud
everywhere. While it's wet enough that my feet sink an inch or
two, it dry enough that it does not squish or splash. However, the low areas where the water
collects are quagmires that have already claimed five shoes from my students,
who tend not to lace their shoes anyway. I hop across several strategically
placed rocks and reach the pavement and begin my walk to the bathroom.
much water is the issue. Not only for me but also for this trip. Two days ago,
thunderstorms had brought over an inch of rain to this valley that only
receives eight inches of rain a year. Yesterday brought a little more and the
dry forecast from last week was obviously being revised. Flash flooding had closed
roads and made us change our plans on the fly. Instead of climbing through slot
canyons, we had gone to Capitol Reef National Park, because a slot canyon, downstream
of a thunderstorm, is a very bad place to be. The kids had been great with the
changes, the rain and the mud and we had some opportunities to talk about how
desert life adapts to life with almost no water and then too much water.
reach the bathrooms and step inside…SPLASH! The motion-sensing light switch
activates and as the fluorescent bulbs blink on. I hear water splashing and am
glad that my boots are waterproof as I find myself standing in over and inch of
water. Too Much Water! The urinal is running non-stop and overflowing and the
drain is in the highest part of the floor and only just starting to capture a
trickle of the flood.
things first. I wade through to the stall and take care of business for myself.
Then I start jimmying the urinal handle, hoping that will cease the deluge. No
luck. I walk outside and try the service door, knowing it will be locked but
imagining that I could turn off the water valve from inside. Locked. Splash
back into the bathroom and flip the lever up and down some more in helpless
desperation. Nothing. Outside is a signboard about the campground and I hope to
find a map to the campground host or a phone number to call. Nothing but a
couple of old announcements and a flyer about a few of the animals in the park,
including a picture of the desert scorpion. No warning about checking boots
though and I wonder briefly if that is negligent of them or if scorpions are
just not an issue in the campground.
about to give up and I feel like a not-perfect person for being ready to just
go back to my tent and going back to sleep. I’m usually a pretty good
problem solver but this seems beyond my abilities and resources for this time
go back to the bathroom and it’s clear something is different. No running water
noise. My boots send ripples across the bathroom and I see that the urinal has
stopped. I also notice another drain in the floor, slowly gulping down the
no idea what I did, or if I actually did anything, I give myself an imaginary
pat on the back anyway and head back to the campsite, feeling a bit like a
superhero. I feel that way about teaching sometimes time too. Due to unexpected
reasons, I’m in the right place at the right time, doing my best but sometimes
just flailing away, not really knowing if I’m making a difference. Then after
stepping away, I come back and a student has taken their next step, is no longer
“drowning” and the sun emerges.
me though, it’s only 3:16am. Time to catch a few more Z’s and hope the sun does
come out in the morning.
The school bus and a very muddy campground as the sun works its magic on the clouds